WHY EMPATHY IS KEY TO RESOLVING DIFFERENCES
I was meeting with a very successful sales consultancy company last week and we were discussing the kind of typical problems they come across working with their clients.
They described a few of situations they had faced and we spent some time talking about ways to overcome them and what advice they provided.
They said that what they did was not necessarily complicated, albeit you had to have the right experience, knowledge and a solid and proven process. However, they said, what was key to being successful was forming trust and respect with their clients stakeholders.
They had found out that devising recommendations and an appropriate action plan was only half the battle. But being right is not always enough and there was another part that was required to make things happen.
The other part was genuine understanding of the personal problems the individuals were experiencing and being able to demonstrate what was wrong without calling their integrity or ability into question. It was convincing people they needed a change in direction. And to do this you needed empathy. So let’s look at why empathy is key to resolving differences.
Empathy is at the heart of so many relationship challenges. It’s about understanding their hopes, beliefs and aspirations. Having the capacity to place ourselves in another’s position and seeing things from their perspective is key to really helping them, because what needs to change can be framed in a way that helps them in what they are trying to achieve.
There are two famous quotes that sum up empathy eloquently. The first is credited to the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, who said “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.
The other, more recent quote, was from Nelle Harper Lee, the American author, who in her book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, wrote: “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Developing trust and respect is at the core of building relationships and having empathy helps us realize what is important to them.
While the ability to imagine oneself, as a different person is a sophisticated imaginative process you will find that when we have differing, opposing or contentious ideas to communicate with a client a strong sense of empathy helps us to better understand each other’s values and therefore, to stand a better chance of resolving issues.